Most Impactful Staff member

Mary Lou Hammann is no stranger to large families. Growing up on a farm in St. Thomas, she was the middle child with four brothers and four sisters. She fondly remembers gathering with cousins and neighbors for softball in the summer and card games in the winter. This upbringing perfectly prepared her for her large professional family at Special Olympics Missouri.

Hammann, who is vice president of operations for Special Olympics, is responsible for support and management of all of their facilities around the state. She also serves as the staff liaison between the Special Olympics board of directors and the governance committee. During her 27 years on staff, she’s gotten to know every area of the organization while seeing their staff grow from seven to 40 employees.

“When I started at Special Olympics, I did not have a clue what an impact it would make on my life,” Hammann says. “My inspiration is the 16,000-plus athletes, including two on staff, and all the coaches, volunteers, donors, and board members that give all they have every day.”

“When I started at Special Olympics, I did not have a clue what an impact it would make on my life.”

Special Olympics works to provide competition for individuals with intellectual disabilities, resources for health and wellness, and unified inclusion where the athletes are paired with individuals without disabilities. Athletes compete at local, area, regional, state, and national competitions. Special Olympics Missouri has three state events and 16 official sports.

“The events develop individual athletes to help them grow so they can be an active part of the community,” Hammann says. “Our events are also used for team building for corporations to develop team members that volunteer at our events.” After years of being part of her big work family, Hammann has learned to make each opportunity a stepping stone for the future

“I always tell new employees that you make a job what you want it to be,” she says. “Always be open to new possibilities. Someone always leaves a position and there is always a need, so there is always an opportunity for another person.”

In the past few months, Hammann has had to be ready for some unexpected possibilities, including the tornado that hit the Special Olympics Training for Life Campus in Jefferson City on May 22. The building, only one year old at the time, received extensive damage and is currently under construction and set to re-open this coming May. Through this time, Hammann learned the value of a large family ready to pitch in during times of heartache and tragedy.

“The tornado devastated our staff, but it also made us pull together as a stronger team,” notes Hammann. “It showed us the generous support of a community. We had 200 volunteers doing clean up and helping us move after the tornado.”

It is that strong leadership, including pointing out the success of others and never mentioning her own, that makes Hammann such an impactful team member. She is unwavering in support of her work family as well as her own personal family, including her husband of 46 years, David, two sons and daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. She recognizes daily all the blessings in her life.

“It touched my heart that someone thought enough of me and the organization to nominate me,” says Hammann. “I am inspired every day by those around me who serve.”